(AUSTIN, Texas) — It was once a gleaming symbol of a bizarre, hidden world — a Texas compound where authorities say Warren Jeffs could make polygamy the law of the land.
Today, the 1,600-acre plot of land known as the Yearning for Zion Ranch is directly in the crosshairs of the Texas Attorney General’s office.
According to a 91-page affidavit filed Wednesday by the State of Texas, “Warren Steed Jeffs orchestrated the purchase of the Suspected Place for the purpose of facilitating and perpetrating criminal offenses, including Bigamy, Sexual Assault, and Aggravated Sexual Assault.”
Jeffs was convicted a year ago of sexually assaulting two of his underage brides.
Officials call their attempt to seize the group’s compound “the final chapter” in a multimillion-dollar battle against the polygamist sect, which authorities believe was centered around sexual abuse and funded through money laundering.
Authorities say Jeffs used the compound’s temple to commit his crimes, saying it “was constructed in a special manner so that Warren Steed Jeffs could perpetuate sexual assaults in the Temple building.”
And they quote from Jeffs’ own designs and the group’s “Priesthood Records”: “There is a table, but it will be made so it can be a table or it can be a bed. It should be made so the tabletop can come off. It will be on wheels… This will be made so that it can be taken apart and stored in a closet where no one can see it. When I need it, I will pull it out and set it up… It will be covered with a sheet, but it will have a plastic cover to protect the mattress from what will happen on it.”
Authorities detail Jeffs in his own words to make their case that the compound’s very existence was centered around protecting criminal activity.
“The devil knows where we are, but through our faith the wicked and the righteous can be blinded and not find this place,” Jeffs wrote, according to authorities.
ABC News had rare access inside the compound following a police raid in 2008. At that time, women inside denied that young girls had sex forced upon them.
“That is a lie. They are not forced,” a woman identified as Marilyn said.
But Elissa Wall, a former child bride from the ranch, says that terrible things went on within the compound and that its end is long overdue.
Already, most of the compound’s residents have left, following a series of arrests involving the group’s men. No word what will become of it if the State of Texas wins the right to seize it — a rural chunk of land haunted by its past.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio